Protesters Trick-or-Treat Across Canada, Page 1
Date: October 31 2003
Protesters Trick-or-Treat Across Canada as CSIS, RCMP Play Hide and Don't Seek
70-year-old Resisters Help Lead the Way in 10 Cities During National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
Five Arrested as Costumed Crusaders Demand CSIS, RCMP Stop Terrorizing Canada's Arabic, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim Communities
(A report from Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada)
You'd think that a spy agency whose number one concern is "security" would have been able to prevent the relatively easy breach of its perimeter that resulted in four Halloween arrests today and kept the massive, super-secure bunker on lockdown for the day.
But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's national spy agency, has never been one to score points on the ingenuity scale. Indeed, an organization which can use the blanket of "national security" to defend any action or decision it does not want to discuss in public does not have to meet the high standards that would be required of any body which needs to be accountable to the public.
Indeed, 19 years into its existence, CSIS has never, until today, had to deal with being held under siege by four of the most insidious forces it currently faces in this country: democracy, accountability, community, and love.
The CSIS national HQ, a massive piece of architorture, the most "secure" building in Ottawa, was on lockdown on Halloween, no one in, no one out, and only the most "essential workers" already herded into the half full parking lot well before 7 am.
The occupation of the interior grounds of CSIS by hordes of Ottawa police, plainclothes cops and videographers, dozens of dark tinted SUVS and vans, and police dogs, was all in expectation of the Halloween trick-or-treat for the secret evidence which has held five Muslim Men -- Canada's Secret Trial Five -- behind bars a collective 109 months, without charge or bail, much of that in solitary confinement.
But while we were there to trick-or-treat, CSIS was playing hide but don't seek from the 75 people, ranging from babies to Raging Grannies, who came seeking justice for the Secret Trial Five, their families, and their communities, who continue to be under attack by Canada's security forces.
By day's end, four people were under arrest in Ottawa for managing to gain access to the high security grounds of the facility. Anet Henrikso of Montreal, Melanie of Ottawa, Ed Babb of Burlington, and Matthew Behrens of Toronto are charged with trespassing. Another -- Barney Barningham -- had been arrested for occupying an MP's office in Mount Forest, Ontario to protest the ongoing solitary confinement (two years, two weeks) of Hassan Almrei in the Metro West hole. And hundreds had joined vigils, rallies, and, in one instance, a "house of horrors," from Halifax to Edmonton, Durham to Peterborough, St. John to Guelph.
Well before the National Day of Action to Stop Secret Trials in Canada got under way, CSIS was already revealing that it was under a great deal of pressure from the public over its persecution of the Arabic, Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities in Canada. CSIS director Ward Elcock, testifying before a Parliamentary subcommittee in late September, declared, without being prompted, that "these [security certificates] are not secret trials, as some have alleged. This is hardly a Star Chamber." In feeling he had to directly address the language we have been using, Elcock showed the extent to which this issue is gaining national prominence.
Then, in advance of the October 31 demonstrations, CSIS, concerned over the growing awareness of their persecution of specific communities, released through its National Post mouthpiece Stewart Bell a report whose headline read, "CSIS not unfair to Muslims, watchdog says." Those members of the Muslim community who read this "news" headline may well have wondered if this were a stale, leftover April Fool's joke or a pre-Halloween prank.
"The report was released as left-wing and Muslim activists were preparing to demonstrate on Friday outside the Ottawa headquarters of CSIS to protest what they call the intelligence agency's 'irrational fear of Arab Muslims," Bell wrote. (Like his patron, CSIS, Bell too gets the facts wrong. Our flyers clearly state "Arabs AND Muslims").
The articles states that "the protesters allege CSIS is investigating innocent Muslims and they want the government to release five suspected Islamic terrorists who are being deported as threats to national security."
Buried deep within the article, as it is within the actual report -- produced by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (whose members are approved by CSIS to sit on the committee) -- is the fact that while CSIS says it is not doing these things, there HAVE been "a few cases of mistaken identity," small consolation to those cases of mistaken identity and their families!
The article also ignores the findings of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group which reported in May ("In the Shadow of the Law") that in "hundreds" of instances, people in Canada "are being visited for interviews by security forces without warrants, and taken away for interrogation. Although the full extent of Bill C-36 [so-called "anti-terror" legislation hurriedly passed by Parliament in 2001] was not implemented in these cases, it has been used as a threat to 'encourage' voluntary interviews by citing the risk of preventative detention allowed under the Act. Victims of such police conduct have been afraid to come forward publicly for fear of further retaliation."
So as the forces of democracy threaten to overwhelm CSIS on Halloween, the state gears up in preparation. On the evening of October 29, only one person shows up at the nonviolence training in Ottawa. As we sit and discuss the issues of secret trials, two members of the Ottawa police force's MELT team (Major Events Liaison Team) -- one a police officer, the other from the RCMP -- stroll in, take off their jackets, help themselves to a seat, and make like this is just another visit in their daily rounds.
While one of them asks where the potluck food is -- there isn't any -- another starts asking a bunch of questions about the demonstration: what's planned, who's coming, what are our numbers, "are you expecting any people you aren't expecting?" While the last question certainly gives one room for pause to check for signs of logic, grammar and syntax, I explain that everything they need to know is on our flyers, on our website, and in the emails which the Ottawa police intelligence unit regularly reads.